A Songwriter is Walking
Solo Touring at the age of 62, day by day by day….
*these are notes from the road. I intend to keep the time I spend writing them to a minimum. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy them. They are subject to editing and deletion and susceptible to self-importance. If you like them, consider becoming a paid subscriber to the songwriting essays.
10/15/2022 Day Four - Time is flexible, Pops (again), and swag, a family tradition
The long walk to the car. Leaving for the airport, that feels like an endless corridor. Coming back last night from the show, I hardly noticed the walk. Show time is like that. The relief of having done a show, and done it well, is a time cruncher. Had I not played a full show last night, returning to my room, that corridor would have taken days to walk.
For me, traveling to and through an airport stretches time.
But time is a constant, right? Only our perception of time changes? I’m not so sure anymore.
A visual of flexible time at the Albany International Airport.
I have a guitar student, she’s a terrific guitar player but she’s also Good Will Hunting. She has explained to me, several times, how there is a well-researched mathematical theory that is being used to prove that actual time, not our perception of it, is flexible.
She can even explain why this works, mathematically.
I’m just a simple songwriter, so writing these words causes my head to explode.
But she’s so much smarter than I and I have to believe she knows some cool shit that I just don’t get….yet.
So I believe her and I believe that airport time is a physical thing, not perception, but actual.
The beginning of a day of airport time in Schenectady, NY.
More, longer, Airport time. Going on 13 million hours…
Here’s something to consider: allowing dogs and cats in airports has an actual effect on airport time, shortening it. I can’t tell you why, but maybe my student, Lydia, would be willing to speak with you.
Sometimes a show has time shifting moments. Any musician worth their weight in boutique guitar picks can feel when a song is playing longer than its actual running time.
This happens most when the audience is so markedly different from the performer that the performer’s reference points always require explanation. This is understandably common when a 62 year old songwriter who has written exactly one love song (a language that is usually universal) meets a group of students a few generations removed from the songwriter.
That’s where the guitar comes in, again. Playing guitar well can bridge the gap a little, let the conversation begin.
Pops and I did shows together, so when I come to a place he has worked in the past, like Union, he comes along as well.
I am always reminded of his theory that, when poetry meets music, music always wins.
I disagree. I think a poem, a perfect poem, read aloud well, is the most perfect expression of the human spirit.
I wish you could have heard Pops read. Maybe you did.
But if you didn’t, imagine each syllable as a drum beat, played by Max Roach, each space the fading muted trumpet of Fats Navarro, and the whole piece hovering around you like the rumble of Mingus’s bass. Ask anybody who heard Marvin Bell read and they will agree.
It was jazz. It was cool, Bop, Free, swinging jazz.
We did shows where we went back and forth between songs and poems. I never stood a chance. The best I could hope for was not to be knocked out, to make it the distance.
I’m still surprised enough to be paid, and paid attention to, as a musician/songwriter, that I get really excited about any swag that comes along with a gig.
I’m adding this water bottle to my collection of Dopper bottles I acquired in the Netherlands. When I look at them, I feel a sense of pride that I was good enough to receive some free shit.
Pops felt the same way about the hats that colleges he had read, or taught at, would give him. I’m carrying on a family tradition.
Marvin Bell, with swag.
I wish you could have been there to hear him read.
To see him in his Blue Seal Feeds cap, or his Pacific University ball cap, laughing at himself and the absurdities of poetry and academia while making every audience member believe that he had written that poem just for them was, to paraphrase Dickie Dunn from the movie, Slapshot, “a thing of beauty.”
When I close my eyes and stay very still I can get there, where I can hear every word, see the glint in his eyes, because when he worked his eyes shone with joy.
Another lucky working man.
The game is on.
And poetry wins.
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